A Biking-Hiking Trail in New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been proposed to complete and connect two greenway trails crisscrossing the state from Manhattan to Canada and from Albany to Buffalo to create a 750-mile paved biking and hiking route that will be marketed as a national tourist destination, bringing financial income to the city, and a much needed break from the cars and the noise New York’s citizens. The biking-hiking trail is sure to be a hit.
“We want to build the largest multi-use trail in the nation,” said the Democratic governor at a state of the state speech Tuesday in Westchester County. Cuomo proposed spending $200 million over three years to pave 350 miles of gaps in the existing greenways and connect them to create what he calls the Empire State Trail.
Biking-Hiking Trail Plans Commence
The biking-hiking trail will incorporate the existing Erie Canalway and the Hudson River Valley Greenway. State Bike Route 9 that runs along Lake Champlain to Canada would complete the trail from Manhattan. It is expected to bring millions of dollars in revenue to the surrounding communities each year. The Erie Canalway is nearly 80 percent complete; the Hudson River Greenway nearly 50 percent. The state already owns most of the land needed to complete the project.
“The trail is great as it is, but closing those gaps will make it so much better,” said Erie Canalway spokeswoman Jean Mckay, who has cycled the trail end-to-end three times. “If you’re riding with your kids across the state, it feels a little scary when you have to go on the road for a couple of miles.”
The Hudson Valley segment of the biking-hiking trail starts at New York Harbor and skirts the Adirondack Mountains. It features historic sites such as Olana, the home and studio of Hudson River School painter Frederic Church; the popular Walkway Over the Hudson, an old Poughkeepsie railroad bridge transformed into a pedestrian and bike path; the Martin Van Buren National Historic Site in Kinderhook; the Saratoga National Battlefield and Fort Ticonderoga.
The western leg of the biking-hiking trail follows the Erie Canal and Mohawk River through cities, villages and farmland, and features Buffalo Harbor State Park; the Salt Museum on Onondaga Lake; the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge; and the Fort Stanwix National Monument in Rome. Parks and Trails New York, a nonprofit advocacy group, said the Erie Canalway Trail attracts more than 1.6 million visitors annually.
“I think greenways are absolutely wonderful, whether you’re a runner, walker, biker or pushing a baby carriage,” said Dick Beamish of Saranac Lake, who has bicycled with his wife on rail trails and greenways in San Francisco, Virginia, Vermont and Albany. “They’re a great way to promote health and well-being as well as help local economies.”
In a city like New York especially, a biking-hiking trail will be an exceptional option for commuters, offering a healthy alternative that will also hep reduce the use of cars and the city’s carbon footprint. Incorporating cycling into one of the worlds biggest and most powerful cities is also certain to bring interest to cycling as a whole, and inspire even more people to get on their bikes and ride. And by adding hiking options, the path also becomes accessible to those unable to access a bike, giving opportunities for all to participate in fun, health beneficial activities.
Beamish, a retired news magazine publisher, is an advocate for a new 34-mile rail-trail the state is creating in the Adirondacks between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid.
Cuomo’s office said the Erie Canalway Trail has an economic impact of $253 million from visitor spending and the Hudson River Greenway generates more than $21 million annually.